Hopping cross country: Marine pilots, Harrier jets make pit stop in North Platte

Buy Now Marine pilots Lieutenant Colonel Brian Davis, left, and Captain Matt Forman pose in front of one of the two McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II jets they flew into the North Platte Airport on Saturday. The pilots refueled at Trego Aviation before continuing on their trip to Idaho for cold weather training. Job Vigil / The North Platte Telegraph Marine pilots Lt. Col. Brian Davis and Capt. Matt Forman stopped to refuel their McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II jets at Trego Aviation at Lee Bird Field on Saturday afternoon.

They were on their way to Idaho with their squadron for training.

“We are from Cherry Point, North Carolina,” Davis said. “We are taking these jets all the way out to Mountain Home, Idaho, for some cold weather training.”

Davis said the rest of the squadron is already in Idaho.

“We’re the last two jets and we’re going to link up with them and start a monthlong’s worth of training there.”

“They got out a couple of days before us, refueled and landed in Idaho,” Davis said. “We couldn’t make the tanker, so we have been hopscotching across.”

The pilots said this way they get to see different slices of America.

“I graduated from school with a flight contract in the Marine Corps,” Forman said. “One of the things that makes Marines unique is that instead of going straight to flight school, we all go through six or seven months of training to be a basic platoon commander.”

He said they go to basic school and the entire “ground side.”

“We learn navigation, platoon tactics, that sort of thing,” Forman said. “Then we go to flight school.”

After a couple of other stops along the way for training, the pilots ended up in North Carolina to learn to fly the Harrier. The Harrier is a unique aircraft in that it can take off and land vertically.

“One of the things that’s neat about the Harrier is that it can hover,” Forman said. “That allows us to operate off of much smaller ships than traditional aircraft carriers.”

The pilots said another advantage the aircraft has is when going out on assignment, the Harrier can land on a roadway.“The whole design is so we can land on roads,” Davis said. “We don’t need a built up military airfield to operate out of.”He said they simply land on a road, a truck delivers some fuel or ordinance and they can take off from the road again.“That was the intent of the design many decades ago,” Davis said. “It allows us to get a lot closer to the forward line of troops and support them with Close Air Support, which we call CAS.”Davis said that allows them to get a lot closer and to stay in the fight a lot longer.